Israeli navigation startup Moovit today announced that it has raised £33 million ($50 million) to help it expand into the UK, where it hopes to take on Citymapper.

The funding will be used to help the Tel Aviv firm, which has 15 million users in 500 cities, expand to other markets, with a particular focus on UK.

Flickr Almudena Fernandez
Flickr Almudena Fernandez

The Moovit mobile app, available on iOS, Android and Windows Phone, aims to give users real-time journey directions for subways, buses and trams by combining live public data with information submitted by its "hyper-engaged" community.

It is currently only available to use in London but the latest funding round will help Moovit roll the app out to other cities around the UK. 

Unlike Citymapper, Moovit invites its users to submit their own travel updates to the platform, which can then be shared with other Moovit users. 

Those hoping to cash in on Moovit’s success include Nokia Growth Partners, BMW i Ventures, Keolis, Bernard Arnault Group, and Vaizra Investments, the BRM Group, Gemini Partners and Sequoia Capital.

“Since our last round, Moovit has seen tremendous growth in our initial markets. Now it’s time to bring community-powered local transit to people around the globe,” said Nir Erez, CEO of Moovit.

“The UK is a key growth area for us and we’ll be expanding our service in all major cities across the country to ensure users get maximum coverage, enabling them to ride public transport in a much smarter way."

The latest funding round brings total investment in the company up to £53 million ($81 million), considerably more than Citymapper, which raised £6.57 million ($10 million) in its last funding round. Moovit is now understood to have a valuation of up to £296 million ($450 million). 

But Moovit will have its work cut out as a large number of Londoners have already pledged their allegiance to Citymapper. The app's founder, Azmat Yusuf, told Techworld in September 2013, during one of the company's first media interviews, that Citymapper was already installed on half of all smartphones in London. Since then, the app's popularity has grown considerably. 

The vast difference in funding could help the Israeli firm market its product more aggresively than its UK rival, in a similar way that taxi-hailing service Uber has with Hailo

Investor perspective

Alfred Lin, partner at Sequoia Capital, said: “We’ve long been believers in Moovit’s mission to democratise local transit. But we've still been stunned by the passion of its community and how quickly it's transforming the way the world travels across more than 500 cities."

Bernhard Blaettel, president of BMW i Ventures, said: “Improving urban mobility is one of the most fascinating and complex issues our generation is tackling. We believe Moovit’s community-solution to local transit is changing the way we navigate our cities for the better and we’re proud to help them realise their mission.”